There are those of us who no longer consider ourselves part of the religious community we were raised in but will be hosting family affairs this Thanksgiving where most attendees still, to some degree, consider themselves committed Christians. Should we concede to the expectations of our family and guests or stick to our convictions as a matter of principle and avoid the traditional prayer?
I am perhaps the only member of my family that has openly professed that the religion I’ve been exposed to all of my life no longer holds any relevance for me. Yes, I am an apostate but I have no regrets. None at least until it comes to having family over to my house for Thanksgiving. It has not been possible for me to get everyone to sit down and eat without some member of the family expecting a prayer be said before the meal is consumed.
I don’t want to be insensitive to people’s needs to fulfill certain rituals and have on past occasions put something together myself that didn’t require invoking a blessing from the God of Abraham or Jesus. I just find it more difficult each year to be part of something that now seems so artificial and cultish. So how to deal with offering up a Thanksgiving supplication this week to spiritual figures who are not real for me as I host family members who devoutly believe that “God is in control”?
I could delegate that responsibility to one of those family members who feel the need to pray. In fact, on at least two other occasions I have done that very thing, giving that honor to my older brother who late in life seems to have developed an evangelical fervor that I haven’t seen since just before being kicked out of seminary for disobedience (he was caught smoking cigarettes). But the last time he was here in 2008 he was so disappointed in the outcome of the elections that he managed to slip something of a mild curse into his prayer that was aimed at the new President-elect.
I suppose his Republican leanings along with my solid support for Obama created a rift between us and as a result we haven’t seen or heard much from him and his wife until recently, when, to my surprise and delight, he accepted the invitation I extended to him in an e-mail. This Thanksgiving dinner therefore is being seen as an attempt to mend fences, so it seems the least I can do since Obama will be in the White House for another 4 years is to allow the traditional prayer a role in our family holiday get-together.
I could once again delegate this role to my older brother and risk another swipe at the man who grates at him. Or there is always my sister-in-law whose Calvinistic upbringing remains in tact. (She once confided in me that great wealth is a blessing from God) But then I have always felt that delegating this tradition was something of a cop-out since my wife and I are after all the hosts. The curse of this holiday convention confronts me and I feel like Tevye with his hand stretched to heaven shouting out “TRADITION!” … but more as a curse than an affirmation.
Perhaps the cure for what ails me lies somewhere in my brothers words in his response to my invitation
“I was almost afraid Politics was going to set us apart this year but you know that would never fly with me. So, let’s do as the Holiday suggest and Give Thanks for all the many Blessings throughout the year and catch up on all our Family’s well being. Amen”